Susan Braedan has no idea when she goes to bed one spring night that she will never see her home on Earth again. Susan is not a normal woman. She is not quite Human, not Human enough to reproduce with Human men. Susan is the last desperate attempt to save a dying world, and she has been chosen as Cross-Mate to Prince Jole. Raised by his Cross-Mate mother, Jole knows better than any man on Kegin how an Earth woman should be treated to win her love and respect, but can he accomplish that before his younger brother, Mik, can claim her for his own?
Mik has been raised with all Kell's hate and misinformation. He doesn't want to be that man anymore, but can he overcome his many mistakes, hold tight to his sanity, and start anew in a society that sees him as nothing but a madman and a criminal?
When Susan was taken through the gateway, she performed the most stunning disappearing act in history. Only signs of a struggle, strange boot-prints, and a smear of her blood were left behind, and no one had emerged from her apartment. Believing Susan is a pure-blood alien, the government searches her family for more of the same...and finds her cousin Alex, another third-generation Keen rebred. Held in captivity for two years, everything changes when the government finds another of their kind...a female...and puts Alex in close proximity with Lyssa.
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release title.
Alex Braeden lay on the hard bed in his prison cell. He had given up asking why he was here more than a year earlier. The reason they gave was too insane to contemplate.
In an hour, Patterson would come in and the questions would start again.
"How did you get here, Alex?"
"Why are you here, Alex?"
"Which one of the endless stars is your home world, Alex?"
"Where is Susan?"
Alex sighed. Susan had been gone for more than four years. He had no more idea where she was than they did, and maybe that was a good thing for Susan. There were times that Alex might have cracked if he had known what to tell them.
That was how this whole thing started. Susan's neighbors had called the police to report screams in her apartment, but when the police arrived, Susan was gone. Large portions of her belongings were gone, but curiously, her clothing seemed untouched.
There were signs of a struggle. The items on top of her nightstand were swept off onto the floor and crushed under the heel of a boot with a strange tread that the police couldn't seem to match. A lamp was knocked over. A bloodstain marred the sheets of her mussed bed.
It would have been a simple missing persons' case if it weren't for two things. First, how could Susan and her belongings have disappeared from a fifth-floor apartment, when three witnesses stated that no one had come out? Neither Susan nor her attacker came out the hall door or the fire escape. The second reason was the blood.
Alex pushed to his feet and walked to the small bathroom. He splashed water on his face and considered the shower. No, he always preferred to take his shower after an interview with Patterson. Alex felt strangely dirty after spending time with that particular agent.
Behind him, someone keyed the lock, and a tray of food settled onto the edge of the dresser. Alex pulled a worn copy of Stranger In A Strange Land from the shelf of books they allowed him and scooped the tray up, setting it on the nightstand. The food was good enough and plentiful enough here. It was the only decent thing about the place.
Alex tried to concentrate on his book while he ate, but he was still playing the events over in his mind.
He didn't like to think about that single bloodstain. One little bloodstain had destroyed his life. He swallowed a mouthful of coffee and stared into the black depths inside the cup, as black as the space outside the atmosphere these people seemed convinced he came from. Four years ago, Alex had been in his last year of college. Four years ago, he'd had a life and a future.
He should have realized something was seriously wrong when the guys in dark suits with no senses of humor started showing up instead of the police. At the time, Alex had hoped the feds were hanging around to find Susan. They wanted Susan, but not as a public service to find a missing person. They wanted her because of that blood.
The questions the feds asked had grown more and more bizarre. Had anyone in the family ever been abducted by aliens? Had any of them ever disappeared unaccountably for a few days? Alex had thought they were cracked. He still believed they belonged in rubber rooms, Patterson most of all.
A year after the feds took over the investigation of Susan's disappearance, things got ugly. The feds acquired a warrant for blood samples from family members. Alex got a lawyer, and it went to court. With an airtight alibi for the night of Susan's disappearance, Alex had been let off the hook. Some of the other family members hadn't been so lucky.
The feds took their samples, and the questioning went on. It had been another nine months before they got their blood sample from Alex. He had no doubts about how it happened. He had been mugged, beaten. A decent smear was all they needed. His attacker went away with more than that on his clothing.
Two days after the attack, Patterson and two of his goons dragged Alex from his home in handcuffs. He hadn't seen his family since then. Alex had no idea if he was still in Pittsburgh, no idea if his family thought he was alive or dead. He was tortured by the idea that they were all here somewhere, even Susan.
Alex set his coffee cup down, his appetite gone, as it always was when he let himself dwell on being held captive in this room. He was let out for the endless lab tests, some of the almost endless questioning, for daily visits to a small gym in the complex, and for occasional treats of fresh air and sunshine in an enclosed courtyard. Other than that, Alex hadn't seen the outside of his room in over two years.
They allowed him books and movies to break up the boredom. They allowed Alex to keep a journal that he was sure they read when he was out of the room. He hadn't seen a news broadcast, magazine, or newspaper in his entire captivity. Alex had no idea who was president, what new stars there were in Hollywood, or what the current fashions were.
The last was almost laughable. His wardrobe never varied. The drawers were stocked with navy blue sweatpants with a broad white stripe down the outside of the legs and, when he cared to wear them, long-sleeve white t-shirts with the word 'prisoner' in navy blue on the front and back. Alex typically passed on the shirt, and he'd go stark naked in protest if the pants were stenciled in a similar manner.
The hollow sound of leather shoes on the tile floors reached Alex long before Patterson keyed his way in the door. Alex sat back on the bed and laid his head against the wall. Every day was more of the same. He could almost mouth the questions with Patterson.
Patterson took a seat across from him and eyed the tray. "Not hungry this morning, Alex?"
"Not really. I don't need any lab tests. I'm sure I'm fine." It never hurt to tell Patterson that he wasn't sick, though it might not save him from a stick in the arm to check.
"Feel like talking to me yet?"
"Sure. Breaks up the boredom."
"How did you get here, Alex?"
Alex cracked a smile. "You arrested me, remember?"
Patterson didn't smile. He never smiled. "How did you get to this planet?"
Alex rolled his eyes. "You have a birth certificate for me. I was born here...Mercy Hospital. No illegal aliens in this room, unless it's you." It was a stale joke, but there were only so many jokes he could come up with for the same questions.
"Why are you here?"
"Because you and your cracked buddies won't let me leave."
"Where would you go if I let you leave?"
Alex blinked, his smile disappearing. That was a new one. After more than two years, he didn't think there was such a thing. "Home." He forced the word out and tried not to let longing make his voice rough. He failed.
"Where is home?"
"Thirteen Sterling Street." He paused. "Unless Mom has moved while I've been in here." Alex met Patterson's cold blue eyes. "Why won't you tell me anything about my family?"
"You wouldn't want to know."
"I do." Anything...any news would be better than this.
Patterson cocked his head as if he were examining a strange phenomenon. "She's dead. Your mother is dead."
Alex found it hard to breathe. "How? When?"
"A year and a half ago. Car accident. Your Uncle Joseph was with her. Both of them were D.O.A."
His pain solidified into anger. "How convenient for you. Susan's father and my mother are dead. Her mother was already dead. No one is left to fight for us."
"I won't deny that."
"I bet you won't." For a split second, Alex considered beating Patterson to a pulp. He rubbed the four-inch scar on his forearm and reminded himself why he wouldn't try that again.
"Where is Susan, Alex?"
"I should ask you that question. You probably have her locked up in another cell here. After all, you're the masters of making people disappear."
"I assure you that we don't."
"Why is she so important to you?"
"Come now. A purebred female of your kind is priceless to us."
Alex groaned. He knew better than to ask that question. Patterson's delusions were grand. They wanted Alex and Susan because, of every trace of alien blood the feds had found in the last decade, theirs was 'pure.' No one else, even in their own families, was as pure as the two of them.
Tests had been run. Alex was incapable of reproducing with 'humans.' He could have sex easily enough, if his partner didn't mind his abnormality. It was a rare disorder but harmless. His doctor had assured Alex that his body simply became overexcited at climax and dumped excess blood to his cock, making it thicken another twenty-five percent. For most women, that meant he was locked inside them until the swelling subsided, but sex was still possible. Fertilizing an egg wasn't.
The scientists had tried every trick in their arsenal. Alex's sperm wouldn't form a cohesive zygote, even with women who had a 'taint of alien blood.'
The idea of them finding Susan made him ill. Using his sperm to impregnate his first cousin smacked a little too close to inbreeding and incest for Alex's tastes.
"Do you miss it, Alex?"
"I'm too tired for games, Patterson. Miss what?"
"Don't start that again. Whatever the reason I was put on this Earth, I am sure it's not for your peep show. Let's see how Alex fucks. You know how Alex fucks, the same as you do, but you can have children, and I can't."
"The same except for that little expand-o-matic bit," he noted.
Alex closed his eyes and bit back a half dozen smartass comments that would get him put on punishment again.
"How does it feel?" Patterson asked.
"What?" he snapped.
"Being locked in a woman?"
Memories of hot, mindless sex had Alex rock hard in ten seconds flat. "It feels good, Patterson. Being in a woman feels really good." Despite his determination not to create a beat-off tape for Patterson, Alex missed sex more than he could bear.
"Up for a walk, Alex? I could use to stretch my legs."
"Sure. Why not?"